We have enjoyed an upward trajectory of sheer cinema joy for more than 25 years. Why did Netflix have to go and spoil it?

The company’s recent decision to charge separate fees for DVD delivery and streaming options has struck a sour note with many customers, including me. But the new policy also represents the first bump on the video highway.

I remember how excited my husband Paul and I were when we found out we could rent a VCR. This would have been in the mid-’80s, and the rental was for — drum roll, please — a weekend. Videocassettes were obtained by mail. It was thrilling to be able to watch classic Fellini, Truffaut, etc., without waiting for the local art house to show them once every three years.

Imagine how we felt when we finally bought our first VCR. By then, we could go to the corner video store and rent movies there. Wow.

At first, we would watch just about anything. But as the novelty wore off, we became more particular. This led to some interesting little spats in the store.

“Not that one again.”

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

“Well, how about …”

“You know I hate Julia Roberts!”

Once we had watched all the new good stuff (and we are film snobs, so there’s never enough good stuff) and viewed all our old favorites again, there was little we wanted to see.

I concluded the reason my parents’ generation had gone to the movies every weekend was that they really didn’t care what they were watching. It was all about the stars, or the snogging or the popcorn or ….

Ah, it was about not having a TV, computer or PlayStation at home.

Along came the mega-video store just in time. That event, at least in Augusta, represented the rise of the DVD. Paul and I did not venture into DVD-land immediately. We waited until it became obvious video was on the road to ruin. Even then, we bought a DVD-videocassette player, which we used until last year. Now we own a Blu-ray player, although we have not watched any Blu-ray discs on it. Perhaps we never will, as the disc is in its death throes, soon to be totally replaced by streaming.

But I digress. The mega-video store provided more choices, especially in the foreign and literary categories we enjoyed the most. Still, after a month or so or weekly film watching, we found ourselves stomping around the store, negating each other’s choices again.

This seemed very strange to me, as our first date was to see a movie (“The Big Chill”), and we had been avid cinemagoers well into the VCR era. Why didn’t we argue before going to the theater?

I haven’t come up with the answer to that one yet. All I know is that when I saw an ad for Netflix on the Internet, I knew it would make the perfect Christmas present for Paul.

I like to joke it saved my marriage.

We glided into our Netflix journey, creating dispassionate lists weeks before the movies arrived. Then we just watched them. I remember abandoning only one movie — “Cold Mountain.” I abhor Nicole Kidman as much as Paul dislikes Julia Roberts.

When we were current on the good cinema, we borrowed great cable offerings such as “Mad Men,” and “The Wire” and “The Tudors.”

Soon we bought a Wii and were streaming occasionally. When the offerings suddenly improved — “Midsomer Murders” — oh, happy day! — I sensed the balance of power at Netflix was in flux. Sure enough, the notice of the Big Change was in the email.

We balked at paying separately for the two services. I told Paul I thought streaming was the way to go. After all, there are something like five Red Box outlets in Augusta, two of them within a mile of our house. Streaming is the next big thing, I said.

Unfortunately, we then tried to watch one of my favorite PBS miniseries, “Shroud for a Nightingale,” based on a P.D. James mystery. Part One streamed fine; but in Parts Two and Three, the video and audio tracks were out of sync. I ended up borrowing the DVD through the Minerva library system.

Hmm. Netflix wants us to pay more for a service that doesn’t always work? We have hit the pause button on our mental remotes — for the first time in what seems like forever.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]


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